What we learned from Firestarters ‘Destination Tourism and Culture’
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What we learned from Firestarters ‘Destination Tourism and Culture’

For our second Firestarters event, we chose to focus on our region’s tourism and culture sectors to start conversations about how we can build back better and achieve inclusive growth for the sectors. Read on to discover what our Firestarters community discussed at ‘Building Back Equal’ – Destination Tourism and Culture, and what our next steps for the tourism and culture sectors are. 

What is Firestarters and ‘Building Back Equal’?

Firestarters is a values-driven community that’s striving to be a force for good in the Liverpool City Region (LCR). Through live events that showcase a diverse range of speakers and audiences, Firestarters aims to build meaningful connections between purpose-driven people and achieve real change. ‘Building Back Equal’ is a four-part event series that focuses on finding solutions to our region’s biggest challenges and building back the LCR in a fair and inclusive way. Destination Tourism and Culture was the second event in the series and gathered the LCR’s cultural organisations in one (virtual) space. 

Why Destination Tourism and Culture?

Our first Firestarters event, ‘Building Back Equal’, allowed us to gain more of an insight into the challenges that the LCR is facing. We looked into the most pressing matters that are affecting our city region, and what sectors, in particular, were in need of attention. From here, it was clear to us that our city’s tourism and culture sectors were the highest priority. With this in mind, we designed the second ‘Building Back Equal’ event, Destination Tourism and Culture, to be in direct response to what our region’s culture, creative and tourism sectors need.

Why is ‘Building Back Equal’ – Destination Tourism and Culture so relevant now?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LCR has seen huge losses across its tourism and culture sectors with 31,000 jobs having been lost within our region’s tourism sector alone. In a study from the Visitor Economy Team at Growth Platform, it was found in 2019, spending within the LCR’s tourism sector reached £4.98bn. However, due to the COVID-10 restrictions, throughout 2020, income generated from the sector dropped by a massive 58%. This highlights just how severe the situation is and how essential it is that we work together to build back our region’s tourism sector. 

As well as this, there have also been huge challenges for the arts and culture sector as the government has recently announced that it will be going ahead with plans to cut funding to university arts subjects by 50% by this Autumn. This is yet another setback for the arts and culture sector and emphasises the need for community events like Firestarters ‘Building Back Equal’ if we’re to achieve fair recovery from the pandemic.

What we discussed at Destination Tourism and Culture 

‘Building Back Equal’ – Destination Tourism and Culture brought together 40 of our region’s most influential creative, cultural and tourism organisations to discuss the question of: “How can the LCR’s culture and tourism sector come together to champion diversity and build back equal?”. 

During the event, we heard from Yaw Owusu (The Playmaker Group, Liverpool International Music Festival, PRS Foundation and LCR Music Board) who ran a Q&A all about the PRS Foundation’s Power Up Programme, as well as starting off some brilliant discussions with the Firestarters community about the tourism and culture sectors. One of the key points that came from Yaw’s Q&A was around the areas that the LCR is both succeeding and failing in, with regards to its tourism and culture sectors. Yaw highlighted Liverpool’s ambition for, and commitment to, creatives and the creative sector as something that really stood out. However, he also spoke about the unique issues that Liverpool experiences as a city. 

We are dealing with stuff here that’s very different. Our history means that certain things need to be taken a lot more seriously. But our ambition in terms of culture and tourism and its worth to the city, particularly with music and arts. Not every city has that power coming from a certain sector.

Yaw Owusu, The Playmaker Group, Liverpool International Music Festival, PRS Foundation and LCR Music Board.

After Yaw’s Q&A, we broke off into six smaller groups for more in-depth discussions about how we can build back the culture and tourism sectors. These were led by our incredible guests: 

  • Andrew Ibi, Co-Founder of FACE, Programme Leader at LJMU and Founder of Bold Agency
  • Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool
  • Emma Smith, Artistic Director & CEO of the Liverpool Irish Festival
  • Kevin McManus, Head of UNESCO City of Music
  • Sarah Lovell, Head of Culture at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
  • Sarah Ogle, Marketing & Communications Director at Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse

Each of the six groups discussed three key questions around the culture and tourism sectors: 

  1. What are the challenges around reducing inequalities as we build back better?
  2. What are the changes you would like to see in your own sector/industry?
  3. What tips and best practices can you share? 

What we’ve learned from ‘Building Back Equal’ – Destination Tourism and Culture

The smaller group discussions enabled us to dive deeper and uncover some of the key issues and challenges that the sectors are facing. There were so many amazing points that came from these discussions, but what seemed to be a running theme across all of the groups was the need for:

  • More arts and culture education for young people in schools
  • Diverse representation at the top level of organisations
  • Structural changes within organisations 
  • Making actual change happen, not just talking about making change 

A few people in the group are like me they’ve been around for a while, and we’re conscious that we’ve seen initiatives, and statements and manifestos come and go and nothing much changes.

Kevin McManus, Head of UNESCO City of Music

What are the next steps? 

If we want to spark change for our region’s culture and destination tourism sectors then it’s all about the next steps. We’ll be sharing some of our top insights as well as putting together plans for what our next steps will look like. Keep an eye out for our next blog post where we’ll be sharing it all! 

Want to catch up on all of our Firestarters community discussions from ‘Building Back Equal’ – Destination Tourism and Culture? The full event video is up on YouTube now for you to watch back! To keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the Firestarters community, make sure to follow us at @heyfirestarters on Twitter.